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Water Pollution -“ A National Disgrace”? A case for renationalisation?

(120 Posts)
vegansrock Thu 28-Mar-24 17:27:32

Should we be making much more fuss about the star of our waterways and the activities of our water companies? The boat race this weekend should bring to the fore the disgusting discharge of raw sewage into the Thames which is at record levels. Since privatisation in 1989 not a single new reservoir has been built, some have even been sold off , despite increased demand. The Water companies have no competition, they aren’t interested in serving the customer, rather saving money so bosses can get huge salaries and shareholders get their payout. Now Thames Water are pleading poverty and are saying charges will have to go up by 40%. Surely we should renationalise now and start seeing water as an essential rather than an essential to make profits.

Dinahmo Thu 28-Mar-24 17:32:13

Definitely - re-nationalise asap.

Germanshepherdsmum Thu 28-Mar-24 17:32:29

Do you have any idea what renationalisation would cost?

Oreo Thu 28-Mar-24 17:37:15

Unsure really, in theory yes, but just now maybe not, the cost and so on.
Huge fines regularly applied to water firms would help.

vegansrock Thu 28-Mar-24 17:38:55

It shouldn’t be about the cost if it’s the right thing to do. Shareholders and bosses should be in jail not given compensation in my opinion.

TinSoldier Thu 28-Mar-24 17:41:30

The English water companies are more than 70% owned by shareholders abroad, for example:

• Wessex Water is 100% owned by a Malaysian company, YTL

• Northumbrian Water is owned by Hong Kong businessman Li Ka Shing

• Thames Water is partly owned by investors from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, China and Australia

We Own it has costed bringing water back into public ownership. They say:

Taking back our water means buying back the water companies so they can be publicly owned, like Scottish Water. This isn’t a particularly radical thing to do – right now in the energy industry the Conservative government has quietly taken some duties from National Grid to create a publicly owned Future System Operator by 2024 to plan for net zero. It is passing legislation and arranging compensation for shareholders. Bringing the privatised English water companies into public ownership would involve a similar process.

Parliament can decide on an appropriate level of compensation for shareholders, depending what it thinks is in the public interest. This decision can take into account, for example, the outrageously bad track record of the water companies - how little they have contributed over the years and how much they’ve already extracted in profit.

If we gave the shareholders back what they put in (i.e. the equity value of the shares) it would cost just under £15 billion to buy back the water companies. We would save around £2.5 billion a year because we wouldn’t have to pay out shareholder dividends and borrowing costs are lower in the public sector. Bringing water into public ownership pays for itself in around 6 years on that basis.

More here:

Doodledog Thu 28-Mar-24 17:42:21

I don't think that cost should come into it, but if it can't be renationalised, the water companies should be forced by law to pay the bills of cleaning up our waters and returning the system to a decent state. After that, they could be offered a price for the taxpayers of the country to buy back what was sold from under our feet. As it was ours in the first place, the price should not be too high, and the shareholders will have to accept that some investments don't pay.

Germanshepherdsmum Thu 28-Mar-24 17:42:56

Shareholders don’t control the company. They are not responsible for its actions. No government is going to compulsorily acquire the shares in a water company without proper compensation - ie paying the value of the shares. Billions.

Doodledog Thu 28-Mar-24 17:45:30

The value of shares rise and fall, as we all know. As the water companies have failed to run them well, the shares will be valued at far less than they were when they were sold and looked like opportunities for a fast buck to be made at the expense of the British people.

Dinahmo Thu 28-Mar-24 17:45:55

So, are we expected to just allow the existing companies to continue?

TinSoldier Thu 28-Mar-24 17:50:30

Of course they do, if they are majortity shareholders. That is the whole problem with out water industry. It has been bought up by foreign investors to make money from.

My previous post wasn't quite right. An Amercan firm has a minority holding in Northumbrian Water.

Northumbrian's owners — an investment firm controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Sir Li Ka-shing, and American private equity giant KKR — have shared dividends totalling £159 million since March 2022, according to corporate filings. This was despite Northumbrian sinking to a £50 million pre-tax loss. Source: The Times 13 August 2023

Controlled by being the operative phrase.

varian Thu 28-Mar-24 18:00:38

Months ago the Liberal Democrats called for a criminal investigation

TinSoldier Thu 28-Mar-24 18:15:55

I thought people might like to see the shareholder structure of Thames Water.

Over 45% of the shares are paying Canadian pensions through Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, British Columbia Investment Management Corporation and Aquila GP.

Universities Superannuation Scheme - A UK pension scheme for the academic staff of UK universities has a 19.7% holding.

The remaining shares are foreign-owned: Europe, Abu Dhabi, Australia and China.

Germanshepherdsmum Thu 28-Mar-24 18:28:35

I believe the Universities Superannuation Scheme also provides pensions to many non-academic staff,

Chocolatelovinggran Thu 28-Mar-24 18:29:20

TinSoldier's post about dividends shared by investors in Northumbrian water suggests that just maybe... priorities are wrong . It seems that we, the consumer are completely powerless and must simply pay for the incompetence/ irresponsibility of these institutions.
How can this be right? Monopolies owned by organisations with profit as their core objective can do as they please, and it seems that healthy water is not on their agenda.
Is re- nationalisation the only answer? I don't know but I cannot think of an alternative.

varian Thu 28-Mar-24 18:31:37

I think re-nationalisation might be the best answer - or perhaps having regional ownership of water companies,

Privitisation of monopolies should never have been allowed.

maddyone Thu 28-Mar-24 18:56:12

More than 70% of our water companies are owned by international investors, private equity funds, and banks. Perhaps we should never have sold off our water companies to foreign investors who don’t care about our water quality or the cleanliness of our rivers and seas. It was shortsighted in the extreme. I didn’t agree with it when it happened and I still don’t agree with it now, but I’m afraid it’s pointless trying to close the gate now because the horse has bolted. You reap what you sow, and we are reaping the rewards of all those years of horrendous, shortsighted decisions made by successive governments.

vegansrock Thu 28-Mar-24 19:02:20

Many claimed abolition of slavery , equal pay for women, ending child labour was too expensive - but these were the right things to do and it’s not all about the money- as is ending the selling of essential utilities as money making businesses - it’s a moral, not just economic issue .

Doodledog Thu 28-Mar-24 19:14:32

Agreed, vegansrock and varian.

winterwhite Thu 28-Mar-24 19:21:10

We should also consider the billions it is costing - or rather would cost if it were ever done - to repair and improve existing ageing systems and pipework, to stop endless bursts and leaks. If shareholders received no bonuses they would soon put pressure on the executive to make improvements.

Privatisation of utilities hasn't worked. The Thames Water situation is outrageous.

Casdon Thu 28-Mar-24 19:30:26

England and Chile are apparently the only countries in the world with fully privatised water supply systems. As privatisation has been an unmitigated disaster, re nationalisation will have to happen, it’s just the when and how that’s in question.

Ilovecheese Thu 28-Mar-24 19:46:48

Let Thames water go bankrupt and the shares will be worthless. Then nationalise.

Whitewavemark2 Thu 28-Mar-24 20:01:49


Do you have any idea what renationalisation would cost?

No more than it is costing us now with cleaning up the rivers and restocking only for them to be polluted again and again. And the cost of bailing them out. The company is bankrupt and in normal circumstances it would be pretty much worth nothing but

You can guarantee that the government will bail them out if they can’t raise the cash - it is outrageous. The shareholders who have lived off the fat of the land in premiums whilst they allowed our waterways to be devastated by pollution are now saying that we should pay up to the tune of 40% rise in bills.

maddyone Thu 28-Mar-24 20:59:31


England and Chile are apparently the only countries in the world with fully privatised water supply systems. As privatisation has been an unmitigated disaster, re nationalisation will have to happen, it’s just the when and how that’s in question.

I do hope you’re right Casdon. The current situation is untenable.

Shinamae Thu 28-Mar-24 21:23:57

I have only paid my water usage for the last few months. I am not paying anything for sewage…
Of course, I am getting threatening letters now, but let them threaten. I’m not going to pay for a service that’s not being provided…